FLC summits Europe’s highest peak

Eight of the 10 members of a Fort Lewis College climbing expedition reached the 18,510-foot summit of Mount Elbrus last week in a grueling, 13½ -hour climb. Elbrus is in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia and is Europe’s highest peak.

The July 12 achievement marks the third highest-peak-on-a-continent climb completed by the college’s Outdoor Pursuits program since 2003. Past expeditions also conquered Mount Denali in Alaska and Aconcagua in South America. The current expedition team plans to add a fourth summit to that list by reaching the top of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro later this month.

Expedition leader and Outdoor Pursuits Coordinator Chris Nute checked in by satellite phone following the end of the Elbrus climb. He was able to convey only a brief message before losing phone service.

Nute reported the team of eight Fort Lewis College students, one college alum and himself spent the last night before summiting at a hut 13,500 feet up the mountain, 5,000 feet below the summit. Those who reached the summit made it back to the hut by nightfall, and the entire team spent another night in the hut.

Nute did not specify which of the team’s members were able to reach the summit or why some did not finish the climb, but said everyone on the team is doing well. This year’s expedition team has been training since last fall for the ascents of Elbrus and Kilimanjaro. Final team members were selected in February from a group of 36 initial applicants. Every team member completed extensive conditioning and strength training. The team also spent a month practicing snow and glacier climbing, learning team rope travel, and ice axe and rescue skills.

In addition to Nute, members of the expedition include: Fort Lewis graduate and veteran of the Denali and Aconcagua expeditions, Josh Kling; and Fort Lewis students Sarah Baskins (assistant team leader), Catherine Baskins, Stephanie Euwema, Tricia Harutun, Ben Johnson, Tony Miles, Kylie Nulty and Allen Ottman.

Good weather on Elbrus allowed the expedition to complete its ascent on schedule, without using precious contingency days. This will allow the team to complete planned service projects and educational tours in the area before moving on to Africa. The Kilimanjaro climb is scheduled to begin July 15.

Volunteers to help rehab burn area

Volunteers are working this weekend to put the Missionary Ridge fire further behind us.

On July 15 & 16, more than 100 people will gather at Vallecito Reservoir, 25 miles northeast of Durango, to move a trail in the Missionary Ridge Fire burn area. The effort represents just one of many projects where people who hike, bike or ride on public lands come together to work on those lands.

“Volunteers are great help in caring for the land,” commented Don Kelly with the Forest Service, Columbine Ranger District. “We would have a difficult time maintaining Colorado’s fabulous natural resources without help from the public.”

The Freeman Park Trail project is being organized by Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado in partnership with the Forest Service and the San Juan Mountains Association

“Projects like this are fun and give you a great sense of accomplishment. You are helping to build something that will have a lasting benefit,” said Kathe Hayes of SJMA. Volunteers are still needed on either or both days. Meals, tools and space for camping will be provided. No experience is necessary but the minimum age is 12. To register and get more information, visit www.voc.org or call (800) 925-2220.

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to motivate and enable citizens to be active stewards of Colorado’s public lands. Founded in 1984, VOC has engaged more than 47,000 volunteers in the completion of 240 trail and habitat projects, and work to date is valued at more than $11.8 million.

Downtown made more ‘user friendly’

Efforts are under way to enhance the visitor’s experience of downtown Durango. With the intent of making downtown a “user friendly” visitor destination, the Durango Business Improvement District (BID) has funded a new Visitor’s Kiosk as well as Locater Guide, or walking map.

Located next to Durango Coffee Co. in the 700 block of Main Ave., the Visitor’s Kiosk is a partnership of the BID, Durango Chamber of Commerce, Durango Area Tourism Office (DATO) and Fort Lewis College. The kiosk is designed as a centralized outlet for all visitor-related information and is staffed by visitor information specialists. Current plans are for it to remain open daily throughout the summer and into early fall.

“Our historic downtown has always been a wonderful destination for our out-of-area guests, but the BID Board of Directors wanted to make it even easier for visitors to find our unique downtown businesses, galleries and restaurants,” said Rod Barker, presiding officer of the BID board. “Our mission is to help enhance business in the district, and we believe the Visitor’s Kiosk will further that effort.”

In addition to promotional materials, the kiosk staff will disseminate the first comprehensive “free” guide, or walking map, of the district, also underwritten by the BID. The map, designed by local graphic design firm Creative Conspiracy, caters strictly to visitors and their needs, according to Bob Kunkel, Durango’s downtown business and promotions specialist, who oversaw the effort.

“It features all the attractions, shops and activities that may be of interest to visitors,” said Kunkel. “But it also goes a step further and includes information on where someone might go, for example, for laundry, car repair or to refill a prescription. The public parking, restrooms and ATMs are also included.”

The first-edition of the map was available at the kiosk starting last week.

“With this significant investment, the BID and its partners are paving the way, hoping downtown businesses will join in the parade to celebrate Durango’s Historic Downtown in a whole new way,” said Barker.

Powerline construction to affect trails

La Plata Electric Company will begin work next week on a new power line on Bureau of Land Management and private land in the Grandview area east of Durango.

Recreationists using the Sale Barn, Big Canyon and Cowboy trails may encounter construction equipment beginning Tues., July 18, and continuing for the next two months.

Although no trails will be closed, those using the trails may experience temporary delays, according to th San Juan Public Lands Center. Signs will be posted at affected trailheads, and flag people will be posted along the trails to warn users to slow down in construction areas. Work on the line will take place Mondays through Fridays, from 6 a.m to 6 p.m. The project is expected to last at least until mid-September.

The new 46kV powerline will be located parallel to the existing Tri-State 115kV powerline, which runs west to east from Carbon Junction. The transmission line was approved by the BLM in July 2005. The new line will alleviate recent problems with operational flexibility, line loading and voltage levels, and will provide a backup feed during power outages in the area, according. In addition, the new line will provide additional energy for the new hospital and increased commercial and residential development in the Grandview area.

– compiled by Will Sands



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